BJC Hospice grief camp for children and teens accredited by the ACA
Brenna Doyle
/ Categories: Awards, BJC Hospice

BJC Hospice grief camp for children and teens accredited by the ACA

“Because of this process, we feel even better equipped to care for the kids."

Stepping Stones Camp, offered free by BJC Hospice, is a three-day-long bereavement camp for children ages 6-15 who have experienced the death of a loved one. The camp takes place every year in August at Camp Wyman in Eureka, Missouri, and is now accredited by the American Camp Association (ACA).

The ACA is the only national accrediting body for camps of all types. ACA’s accreditation standards focus on health, safety and risk management. ACA accreditation provides public evidence of a camp’s commitment to the well-being of campers and staff and assures families that camps have made the commitment to a safe, nurturing and healthy environment for their children.

Sandra Dillon, BJC Hospice bereavement specialist, started working on the accreditation in 2020. The process required providing details about all aspects of Stepping Stones camp, as well as site visits from accreditors.

“The ACA provided a book that listed about 200 standards that we had to meet," says Dillon, "including nursing and health protocols, volunteer criteria, and safety standards, for example. The application process was very helpful and showed areas where we could improve.

"Because they had to do an on-site visit of camp, we had to wait until this year for it to happen because of COVID,” Dillon adds.

The ACA collaborates with experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Red Cross and other youth-serving agencies to ensure that current practices at each camp reflect the highest and most up-to-date research-based standards in camp operation.

“Being accredited shows that our camp is screening volunteers in multiple ways, providing comprehensive training to volunteers, and it also shows we have safety policies and procedures in place for all kinds of scenarios,” Dillon says.

Two representatives from ACA came to Stepping Stones camp this year to evaluate and observe the program in action.

“We passed with flying colors,” Dillon says happily. “Going forward, parents who fill out an application for their child to attend camp will know it is accredited, which can add another layer of certainty that their child will be in safe hands, both with the volunteers who care for their children and the camp itself.

“Because of this process, we feel even better equipped to care for the kids, and we learned things along the way. For example, we've enhanced our volunteer screening and training, including teaching volunteers the signs of abuse and neglect, what to do in the case of a missing camper, as well as emergency procedures in the event of an intruder.

"Everyone we worked with at the ACA was wonderful, and we are happy that Stepping Stones Camp is now accredited.”

For more information about Stepping Stones Camp, click here.

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